Some of you who are interested in a lake house for a vacation home or for retirement might be wondering what it’s like to maintain a home on a lake. As nice as it is to live on the water, there are maintenance and upkeep issues that must be considered. I have been looking at some of these the past two weekends so I thought I would share them with readers.
Lake House Exterior Maintenance
Painting. Our house and garage are sheathed in wood panel siding. Last spring we painted the house, using labor supplied by our college student son and his friends. We had to power wash the siding first because with all of the lake humidity and shade, mold can grow on the old paint. This spring we will paint the garage.
The next time the house needs paint, we intend to replace the wood siding with fiber cement siding. Hardie Board is probably the most well known brand. Fiber cement siding lasts much longer, holds paint longer, is fire and termite resistant, and is less susceptible to storm damage. Since we want to own our lake home through retirement, low maintenance is important.
Trees. Our lot is dominated by large trees, all the way down to the water. We have no grass, which is good. We do get large limbs falling occasionally. Our neighbor has lost several large trees from storms. We had a severe ice storm 6 weeks ago which dropped a lot of limbs across our deck and dock stairs. I cleared them with a chainsaw and lots of lifting. This summer I will try to cut the large pieces into smaller pieces and use that for firewood next winter.
Landscaping. I have very little yard maintenance every year. Basically all I need to do is trim some shrubs now and then and use a string trimmer on the ground cover when it gets too close to the house.
However, because our lot slopes down toward the lake, we have a small retaining wall in front of the house where the previous owners installed a small flower garden. That wall was built from railroad ties which had rotted. So the past two weekends I pulled out the entire wall and replaced it with flanged concrete blocks that simulate a terraced stone wall. I placed porous landscape fabric behind the blocks to minimize soil and plant intrusion through the wall. It was a lot of work but now that retaining wall should last for many years with little or no maintenance.
Wood and Composite Decking
This is the biggest recurring lake house maintenance item. We have one large deck directly behind and across the entire width of the house. We built a second deck closer to the water.
There is a long stairway from the upper deck to the lower deck, and then on down to the dock. All of it is built with pressure treated lumber. We have been using a semi-opaque stain on the wood. It lasts for about three seasons. Last year we cleaned and re-stained the decks. This year the stairs need to be cleaned and stained.
My plan, if I have the time, is to experiment by replacing some of the stair treads with composite decking this year. I want to create a more maintenance free structure. There is lots of conflicting information around about the durability of composite decking. By durability, I am referring more to maintaining its appearance.
Composite decking is very expensive compared to wood so I want to be confident before I replace everything. Luckily the hardware store nearest to our lake home carries one of the better brands of composite decking.
Lake House Dock Maintenance
We have been fortunate with our floating dock. Three years ago a bad storm tore the dock away from its concrete mooring anchors on shore. Insurance covered that and when we re-installed it, we made the anchoring system more robust.
This spring I will have to replace one of the dock floats because the plastic covering has cracked. I already have a spare float on hand for that. It will be interesting to see if we can do this without using any machinery to lift the dock away from the water. Those dock floats provide a lot of buoyancy to overcome!
Other than dock float and dock board maintenance, I will probably scrape some rust off of the metal support arms and repaint those areas.
That’s it for now. I’m sure I will discover some other lake house maintenance items as the spring progresses. If so, I will let you know.